Holy cow – what? Trader Joe’s Rosemary and Thyme Maple Toffee Sunflower Seeds? Wait, Seriously?
Every time – every time – I see something like this from Trader Joe’s I think to myself, “We’ll this is it – Trader Joe’s has gone as crazy as they possibly can.” Surely we won’t be seeing anything as crazy as partially popped popcorn kernels again. Or fried broccoli. Or a BBQ rub made from coffee grounds. And yet here we are – holding a bag of sunflower seeds in our hands, sunflower seeds that have been seasoned with rosemary, thyme and maple syrup. That’s really what these are – no tricks. Here’s the product copy, straight from the website:
“We took great care with our supplier to balance the natural herb flavors of rosemary and thyme with salt. Next, the seasoned seeds are coated in a mixture of maple syrup and salted butter, just before they are fire-roasted in small batches.”
Look at that, just look at that – you can practically hear the desperation of the copy writer as he strains himself to sound casually breezy. The struggle as he tries to convey that this is just some toffee and rosemary and whatever, no big deal – while he knows perfectly well that he’s never once in his life even heard of anyone doing this to any food product, let alone sunflower seeds.
I don’t know – maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m the one who’s gone crazy because I’ll tell you this much right now – these rosemary, thyme and toffee seeds are actually pretty good. Could a sane man dare utter that sentence? That very excellent question is beyond the scope of this blog post…all I can say right now is that Trader Joe’s is as skillful as they are brazenly daring. How else could you explain the delicately balanced mixture of spices, sugar and seeds that makes these snacks compulsively snackable?
I don’t know about you, but when I think rosemary I’m thinking, like, Rosemary Chicken levels of rosemary. BAM!-in-your-face, yup-that’s-rosemary, levels of rosemary. Trader Joe’s has been very careful not to give us that sort of rosemary here. There’s a bit more rosemary than salt on these seeds, but not by much. It’s just a hint of rosemary, along with an even more subdued touch of thyme, that you’ll taste behind the sweet and warm taste of crispy toffee.
If you think about these sunflower seeds as toffee-coated candied sunflower seeds, you’re on the right track. A handful of crunchy, sugary, maple toffee is what you’re going to mainly taste when you pop these in your mouth, followed by the familiar mildness of sunflower seeds, and only then will you notice the subtle but persistent touch of these two herbs, rosemary and thyme, which lingers long after the sweetness has faded. The seeds benefits from the light touch, and they’re easy to munch down, but in the end it’s still a strange taste that takes some getting used to.
Why Trader Joe’s even bothered to put rosemary and thyme in this mix at all, I don’t know. It seems like the logical move would’ve been to do something like cinnamon and nutmeg, or just to keep the herbs out of it all together. As it stands, this makes for a weird snack. Sweet and savory tastes rarely mesh well – and while these sunflower seeds are pretty good, the tastes ultimately clash more than harmonize.
Trader Joe’s has presented us with an intriguing new combination of flavors with these sunflower seeds, but it fails to make a persuasive case for its own existence.
Would I Recommend It: I wouldn’t – while they’re not bad, they’re probably too idiosyncratic to really catch on.
Would I Buy It Again: I really doubt it. They get points for daring though.
Final Synopsis: Candied sunflower seeds with just enough rosemary and thyme to make them weird.
What do we seek, in this world, beside a little sweetness in our lives? Is it toffee? Today, I decided to find out.
The Trader Joe’s by my house has an impressively diverse toffee selection, but of them all these crazy little buggers always leapt out at me. Pistachio, right on man, sea green pistachio slapped almost drunkenly all over the outside of an otherwise normal looking toffee morsel. The moment I saw them, I was captivated by how off-putting they looked – something about the way the crushed nuts sit on the chocolate coating make them look like they were picked up of the laundry room floor. Overcoming my momentary repulsion, I brought them to the counter and had them rung up. After all, eating strange, off-putting things is what this blog is all about.
As one does when one comes into possession of some toffee, I freely offered it to those around me the rest of the day. Interestingly, everyone responded in almost exactly the same way I did: with an initial chilly refusual followed by a slow change of mind that came almost to their own surprise. I think the thought process goes something like, “Those look weird,” followed by, “Wait a minute, pistachio and toffee?! This could be a brilliant new taste sensation!”
Alas, all high hopes were dashed. Crushed pistachios on dark chocolate toffee taste, basically, like toffee. As one of my fellow taste tasters put it – “it tastes like Almond Roca”, which is basically what it is. But what of the dark chocolate, the pistachios? Do they not elevate this into a more elite form of toffee? Man, I gotta tell you – really they do not. The intense butterscotch blast of the toffee effortlessly overpowers the nuances of the chocolate and nuts, and the nutty coating effectively prevents you from sucking on a piece and appreciating it. Is it still awesome? Sure, it’s toffee – but that’s about all it is. I will say that if you eat a couple pieces then wait – wait until after the butterscotch has faded, then wait until after the chocolate has faded – at somewhere around the 3 minute mark BAM!!!, the lingering taste of pistachios will totally be there.
Is that what I thought I was getting? No. Was I naively conflating the taste of sweet pistachio ice cream with the real taste of ordinary pistachio nuts and imaging some sort of sublime transcendent treat to match this toffee’s awkward exterior? Perhaps. If you are seeking that exotically flavored toffee look elsewhere, it is not here.
Would I Recommend It: Can’t think of a reason to recommend it over any other.
Would I Buy It Again: Naw.
Final Synopsis: You can do what you want to toffee, the toffee don’t care.